Saturday, February 2, 2008

"Long-Term" Contracts

I was going to make a comment about this on Tyler's post, but I decided I'm probably going to write enough to warrant it's own post.

The problem I have with the discussion of signing young Brewers to multi-year contracts is the notion of "long-term contracts" as Haudricourt discusses in the JSOnline Brewers blog. The Brewers have the rights to these players for several more years. They're not going anywhere unless they're traded or cut. If the players sign so-called "long-term" contracts, they would be with the club for one more year after they are no longer arbitration eligible, two at the absolute most. It's not like they're going to be signing eight-year deals here at this point. So, talking about long-term contracts is very misleading in my opinion.

Personally, I think it works out better for the team and the players a lot of times to go year by year through the arbitration process and then talk about real long-term contracts when they're a year or so away from free agency. If the players play well, they make a lot of money through arbitration or, more likely, one-year deals reached before arbitration. And the Brewers take no unnecessary financial risks. Plus, the Brewers and the player can still agree to a long-term deal when the time comes.

If the team could sign some of the guys to deals like Bill Hall signed last offseason, I'd be fine with it. I liked the deal because it was fairly low-risk for the Brewers and it bought a year of free agency and a club option for buying his second year of free agency. Even though Hall was not the same player last year that he was in 2006, the deal could still be beneficial to both sides and it gives the team the ability to plan more for their financial future.

First off, the Brewers can forget about a deal like that for Fielder. He will command a lot more money than Hall did and he is a Scott Boras player. If history is any indication, the Brewers will not be signing Fielder to an extension that buys any post-arbitration years unless they do it when he's already a free agent. Boras always advises his players to go to free agency. Prince is still in charge, of course, and could demand a deal with Milwaukee now or in the next year or two, but why would he be with Boras if he didn't want to go to free agency and cash in? I think it's naive to think he'll do anything but follow Boras' plan, but it'd probably be foolish for the Brewers to not at least try to start contract discussions too.

The Brewers still have Braun's rights for six more seasons so it's not really time to start discussing his contract future.

Hardy, Hart and Weeks seem like more reasonable players to sign. Hart and Weeks are still a year away from arbitration though. Next offseason would seem like a more reasonable time to pursue extensions with them since this season will go a long way in telling what their long-term values are. Hardy is in his first year of arbitration and might be the prime candidate this offseason for a Hall-like extension. I'd imagine his agent would push for a lot of money though because Hardy may have just had his career year for power.

We'll see. Milwaukee will definitely have a lot of tough decisions in the years to come and all of these players will not be here for the next decade. In the end though, the Brewers will have all of these position players for at least the next three seasons and, in most cases, beyond. It's not time to panic. And nobody is going to sign a true "long-term" contract this offseason.

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